REVIEW: Soundwave 2012, Melbourne Showgrounds -
Serj Tankian, System Of A Down, Soundwave 2012 - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Serj Tankian, System Of A Down, Soundwave 2012 - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

REVIEW: Soundwave 2012, Melbourne Showgrounds

by Andrew Tijs on March 4, 2012

in Live,News

Nu-metal is reborn for a new generation at 2012’s Soundwave – plus a million other angry young men play and watch. You know the drill.

Serj Tankian, System Of A Down, Soundwave 2012 - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Serj Tankian, System Of A Down, Soundwave 2012 - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Ah, metal fans. The ugliest, smelliest, nicest people on earth. And here they gather, to celebrate all that is evil, angry and anti-social. Funny that. Well, excluding the hour-plus I spent in lines (hey, it’s Soundwave) before I gave up and started consuming the least-popular food and beverages, here’s the tale of a day spent trying to cram in as many of the almost 100 acts.

Arriving just after midday already knocked off ten or so possibilities, leaving US comic cock rockers Steel Panther as openers. The sleazeball schtick wore off swiftly, but it has to be said that they look perfect and Michael Starr’s voice is as full as his spandex pants.

A dawdle over to check out French metal unit Gojira, who were competent, had a big crowd considering the time, yet were the first of this year’s particularly heavy Stage 4 contingent of bands featuring Guys In Black Tee-shirts Playing Metal (compared to last year’s more interesting crew of Kylesa, The Bronx, Fucked Up, Melvins, High On Fire, et al).

Welsh chart-botherers Lost Prophets spent more time fiddling with their hair and hyping up the crowd than playing music, which left them as the 30 Seconds To Mars equivalent for this year; they don’t even have a Hollywood star in the band. Same could be said for A Day To Remember later in the day.

More GIBTPM from ‘supergroup’ HellYeah, although they have a skerrick more groove than the others. Again for Swedish legends Meshuggah, who skewed faster and more technical; the chop and chug was almost exciting.

For something completely different, we visit the sweatbox shed that was Stage 5 for Canuck pop-punks These Kids Wear Crowns. Their platinum ‘Jumpstart’ award didn’t translate to a mammoth crowd, but the bright and surprisingly beefy kids rapped and clapped and tried to get a rise out of the teenage girls. When they covered Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ (knowing that they’d surely do ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ later), I had to give up. More bands.

The big surprise of the day is that British grunge late-comers Bush were powerful. ‘Everything Zen’ was gutsy and a mostly-Rossdale-solo ‘Glycerine’ was arresting. And now I die knowing exactly what the Beatles would sound like if Bush covered them. ‘Come Together’, huh?

This Soundwave was a revival for that much-maligned of genres: nu-metal. SOAD, Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, and rap-hardcore progenitors Biohazard. The lack of Evan Seinfeld was a bit of a loss but those rhythms are undeniable and they spun around like tops. That’s why nu-metal is so annoying, you can’t help but feel those rhythms, not matter how lunkheaded the perpetrators.

The only proper punk band on the main stage (some would say, on the whole bill) was Bad Religion. They could’ve suffered (pun not intended) from the sound muddying their rocketing melodic anthems, if only they got to stay on stage for the whole time. Some malfunction in the rigging saw the boys ushered off halfway and until the end. Sad.

By then, of course, the gawkers and goobers had come out for a reformed Limp Bizkit, (not reformed in any moral sense). Durst crammed in as many ‘fucks’ as possible, in his I’m-seconds-away-from-sucker-punching-you squawk rap. Wes Borland – who I’m still amazed was ever in a band with Durst – was dressed up like a 1920s ice cream salesman/child killer. People still shouted back ‘My Generation’, mostly from a completely different generation to the Bizkit’s original fanbase. And they unveiled a tacky pink banner that looked like it was from Jessica Michalik’s MySpace page in tribute to her unfortunate passing during their 2001 Big Day Out performance. All class.

Mastodon have been the talk of the metal world for the last few years, yet we keep forgetting that their jumbled, sprawling power prog is really quite hard to mosh to. Hunter songs fared better. I mostly disagree with the dude behind me who kept saying “More like Masto-bator, right?” to his buddy.

Trance-core Poms Enter Shikari went way overtime at the Shitty Sound Stage Six (although it must be said that the sound was uniformly great everywhere else, considering). This left brutal Norwegian rockers Kvelertak with a slightly abridged set. Regardless, they bullied the crowd with man-sweat and mini-guitar windmills and were fairly-well the most fun, most-rockin’ act on the day, and one of only two I felt compelled to stay with for the whole set.

Which meant I missed Marilyn Manson. Damn you, Enter Shikari, there’s a very good reason no one else is mixing trance with hardcore. A quick quiz of punters well placed to see the Evil One’s performance revealed that a) he wore puffer jackets so fans wouldn’t see how bloated he was, and b) we was off his face. Don’t kill the messenger.

Slipknot, on the other hand, are the real deal. Lean, mean, entertaining – with that many red-jumpsuited freaks on stage, how couldn’t they be? They squealed and thudded and every song felt individual and the masks were a perfect dissociative device upon which their fans could project their own neuroses and I finally got this damn band. Well done.

Staind, however, I don’t think I’ll ever get. There was a solid crowd, clear sound, and they certainly had chops. But there is absolutely nothing special about this 15-million-album-selling band. Their lyrics and music and deliver are without flair. They’re your cousin’s mate’s hard rock band, with far more technical skill.

So I wander over to see British metalcore outfit Your Demise, for whom I’ve previously had an affection. On albums they seemed a little more dark and inventive than most, but no one told the four goony lads in flat-bill caps and giant shorts on stage, who banged out bro-core while over-hormoned boys attempted to punch the shit out of everyone in the pit. Sad to see them play above Hatebreed.

Unearth had a tiny crowd, but these metalcore dudes had a massive, respectful pit from where I could see. Better.

To System Of A Down – what Dr Frankenstein would make if concocting a metal band. Four men with unconventional facial hair and no style, spasming switching between baby talk opera and breakdowns for 90 minutes. Initially, it was hard to tell if they were having technical issues or that’s just how they write songs. Regardless, I am wrong and the crowd went mental for it.

To avoid having to sit through a movie length performance of schizoid Armenian-American primal screaming, I dipped over to check out Swedish black metal wizards Watain. I was greeted by candles, then flaming tridents and inverted crosses, and black metal which rocked far harder than it had any right to. Excellent. And I returned to have a look at Machine Head (by far the most popular band if you were taking tee-shirts into account) but after a little bit of individual guitar wankery and not hearing anything from The Blackening  or Burn My Eyes, it was time to finish my evening.

I’ve missed seeing Sweden’s Raised Fist due to misfortune so many times, that it was a relief to see them machine-gun out a set of weapons-grade hardcore. Rightly, their performance was a sharp, tight, and heavy as their albums, with a boxing-fit Alle Hagman breaking out headhigh scissor kicks on the regular and barking about their 20 years in the biz. Thing is, as their closing set wore on, he actually appeared angry. Furious, in fact. And genuinely so, tossing his mic from one end of the stage over an amp on the other and kicking over two more. It wasn’t like the testosterone pantomime that metal and Soundwave is based on. It was actually energising.


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